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Probers see link between Lozano-Evangelista slay and starlet's killing

Government authorities are now zeroing in on the possible involvement of the notorious Dominguez carnapping syndicate in the killing of car dealers Venson Evangelista, Emerson Lozano, and Lozano’s driver Ernani Sensil. The charred remains of the three were found separately in different Central Luzon provinces in less than a week, prompting investigators to suspect that only one group was behind the killings. The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the Philippine National Police-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG) held an emergency case conference on Thursday to speed up the resolution of the case, according to a report in GMA News’ “24 Oras." In the two-hour, closed-door meeting, representatives of the CIDG Special Investigation Task Group and the NBI Death Investigation Division fleshed out pieces of evidence recovered at the crime scenes, as well as statements made by witnesses. A GMA News source who was in the meeting said the investigation is now looking at the involvement of just one carnapping group — down from the original five — operating in Region III. The other four were the Madrigal, Herrera, Chinggaya and Bonifacio carnapping groups. Present in the case conference was Nieves Santos, mother of slain starlet Rejoice Rivera, a member the all-girl Baywalk Bodies who was reportedly a former girlfriend of Raymond Dominguez, the alleged head of the Dominguez carnapping syndicate.

The body of Rivera — Diana Marie Santos in real life — was found Dec. 31 on the Tabang Exit part of the North Luzon Expressway going to Malolos, Bulacan. Dominguez turned himself in on Nov. 10 last year to the Bulacan Prosecutor’s Office to clear his name after being named in at least 10 complaints, including carnapping with homicide. He was freed on bail on Dec. 28. On Dec. 29, Rejoice’s mother said her daughter told her that Dominguez was picking her up. She said her daughter told her that Dominguez was fond of shooting the speed limit signage along the Tabang Exit, apparently as a target practice. The “24 Oras" report said NBI agents went to the signage and recovered two empty slugs of a 9mm gun. These two slugs, the NBI said, will be matched with that recovered from Sensil’s body. If the slugs match, Dominguez will be considered the primary suspect in the two cases of murder, the report added. Death threats In a related development, Venson’s father Arsenio disclosed in a separate “24 Oras" report that he has been receiving death threats since he asked the help of the media to locate his slain son. Since the recovery of his son’s charred remains in Cabanatuan early this week, Arsenio said five different cell phone numbers have sent him death threats through text messages.

“Ang text messages ay ‘Ang yabang mo, pa-media-media ka pa. Susunod ka na’ (The text messages read, ‘You think you’re someone, asking the help of the media. You’ll be next.’)," Arsenio told GMA News. He, however, said he is not giving up the fight for justice for his son, even as he has been provided additional security detail by the police. He also said support has been pouring in for them, particularly in raising reward money for information leading to the resolution of the case. Meanwhile, after Emerson Lozano was laid to rest at the Loyola Memorial Park, the Lozano family visited the wake of Evangelista, also at Loyola Memorial Park. Emerson Lozano’s father, Oliver, is a former lawyer of the late President Ferdinand Marcos. Evangelista’s wake will be until Friday, after which he will be brought to St. Peter’s Chapel in Quezon City to be cremated. Test of PNoy's leadership Meanwhile, San Juan Rep. Joseph Victor Ejercito said President Benigno Aquino III should not treat the Lozano and Evangelista killings as simple crimes, but as a test on how well he can lead his six-month-old government. Ejercito, son of former President Joseph Estrada, expressed alarm over the increase in criminal activities during the past days, saying the incidents were meant to send a message to Aquino’s government. “I am disturbed by the recent wave of gruesome killings and increase in crime activities. I don’t think the recent cases are carnapping alone, but I believe it’s a statement from lawless elements," he told GMANews.TV in a text message Thursday. He said Aquino should work on improving the country’s peace and order situation to be able to deter these “lawless" groups as soon as possible. “They are testing the leadership of the Aquino administration. All the economic gains being boasted by the administration will all go down the drain if the peace and order situation does not improve," he said. - with Andreo Calonzo/KBK, GMANews.TV